Getting Word:

reflection: smoke shed, lubec (scassidy photo)

Getting Word:

To rid of, then, of the smell

of fish,

(and I’m not

ashamed but just disgusted of the way it’s suffered

under the boiling

oil) I’ve taken as many votives

as I can muster and,


in every downstairs room, they come up dumb

as a dried tongue of river

stone, one that rubs up on bones

not entirely their own but claim it so once the milt

and spawn of the ocean we’ll all spill

into eventually is reckoned with.  They hold and hold and do

what they’re told on all these, froze

not full grown, never to be

full grown, backbones and remains of the hastily filleted.

(mind the one bone not gone

soft in the hot fat)

Yesterday and again

today the small lights are offering a sort

of homage, a kind way to elbow in

and touch a friend on her arm and say

I’m sorry for  your loss.  The grand plan

of what we thought would outlast us

has been cut up in chunks nonchalantly,

the way men take

to the great slick fins and

bodies of the stocks of cod or they quick flit unzip

the scallop of its halo and caul to lift out quick the little

nugget of muscle—

yes, yes, I’ll love it, I will, and I do, I love it, against the press

of my hand,

all that shell and bone and tongue

I do

and I tell you if I could eat it all

raw, if I could come out

roses as they say

and not for the next month or more of days

stumble into the room after being

out fresh to have to succumb

to the warm heavy weight of cooling

and congealing grease and fish flesh I’m telling you I’m not

ashamed of where I come from

but the winding sheet of it sweet Jesus

yes the winding sheet of it           the way

the tails trail and wick up mud

and blood and squeezed through liver slick as any ice in winter

I’d be, I would, I’d be

rid of that goddamn it I would

but listen

it’s nothing.  It’s nothing.  I don’t mean anything by it.  I’m here

I got here

as fast as I could once I got word.  I’m here,

fast as I could bring the fire

for the Christmas, clean as any fat, beeswax.

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If Your Lids are Halfway Down the Sunrise Absolutely


If Your Lids are Halfway Down the Sunrise Absolutely

 Throbs.  Feel It Before You Go


“What vain weather-cocks we are!”        

                                                Emily Bronte

                                                Wuthering Heights

Maybe, if I look at it as though my heart were

beating in my irises, if I see without letting

or allowing myself blink, I’ll be the in the breach

of each thump

of blood going, each

thump of blood coming back, and at last

it will do to see, see! I’m really breathing, along the least

of seams, the insanity of it,

to be breathing, hum like a hammer-

struck thumb

before, you know the moment,

it goes into your mouth to cool the pool blue-all

tight as a trojan cinching the possibility

of new life.  In this moment it’s the sun just coming

up in front of the river, the lids

of my eyes go idle and lowly in the sense that they have nothing else

to do but stay halfway open without needing to

rush to be the maid who’s just come in late

for the morning, who’s dressing the table

with plates, who’s making eggs, who’s layering

the whites just right in the washer’s drum.  Yes before all that, please,

I make myself

relax to the glaze, the wet, wet glaze just as

the salt’s about to be slung.

Don’t you know all eyes have an atmosphere they see

through, breathing, taking the air like a consumptive

like the needy needing to lift

those lacy lungs until a choke hold

squeezes to know

anything: base, abusive, harmonious, erotic…

come let it what you want it

to see be seen breathing beating increasing

then slow as a pin-hole decreasing, easing out to such an edge

as unhanding is the next and only possible goodness

you can achieve.

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clone tag: -9017939794138542309



concede: that snow is making and melting making and melting before it falls for good to the ground before it offers (after substantial accumulation) a wedding bed to the newest and uprooted and a deathbed to the most tired, least reluctant to let go. It’s mostly the same year upon year: what falls will be taken up again, or sung under and hung like trophies among the still living

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   in light

rear servants stair


hyde park, ny


After Mr Cogito’s Mother

the left

given to leaps…

the right

nobly rigid…

and so

on both legs

Mr Cogito


through the world

staggering slightly

On Mr Cogito’s Two Legs

                                Zbigniew Hebert

I have to do the math backwards although any

one with any shred of aptitude would simply say

eleven just like that eleven it’s been eleven

years already only eleven years and say it

like it’s only been a week it’s been a week a week’s gone

by already though I appreciate how we don’t

even know some among us when we stop

counting or when counting stops meaning

something even though it slips perfect as

a master dovetail joint into place all that

cutting all that sharp angle sanded to dust has become

and what it is that makes us the us is just me

because who else does this in my life I don’t

know who else is seeing that this year your birthday will fall

hmmph, fall, like love I guess or glass or you

in the bathroom on your last of last days

on a Monday and you died the next day the day

after three weeks later.  You’d been given a few hours

at least to be sixty and my father wanted it

that way though all he’d say is that he wouldn’t let you

die on your birthday.  He couldn’t

appreciate the symbolism in that and so

he made you wait it out for a few more

hours and then left you before you

were finished.  I’m not judging that not in the way

people who can do simple math who arrive

at their facts just like that and if I could

I’d snap my fingers here and make

the whole crowd blink for its fist in the palm

affect though gentle gentle and without

a shred of revenge.  I bring it up

because I always think at this time

of year you would’ve been wanting to

bring the whole garden in all at once so

you could get it done and sit on the couch

and have a smoke.  I bring it up

because this year Thanksgiving falls

early on that fourth Thursday of five

as it happens just like the year when

you died.  I bring it up because lately

I’ve been thinking about Descartes and his

Cogito bullshit and two poets are happening

to be having a conversation on the radio

about Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito

Laments and it makes me take him up

off the top shelf where he holds

all the rest of them (Bishop and Moore and Yev-

tushenko and and Miloz and Nemerovski)

I have to move

the teaspoon of bone and ash I have

(stashed is the wrong word but tucked

might not work either) of my friend

Roger who died eight months

after you did and right away I know I’m going

to put down everything I’ve been doing

and take up with him again.  Herbert

I mean.  And remember all the things

he ever said to me, really said to me,

and fall in like a foot soldier on rations

having marched halfway across Africa

or Canada or for him Poland with some of

God in his pocket.  I could say his story

is so much sadder than yours and though

I wouldn’t be wrong I wouldn’t know exactly why

that would be except to say Poland

and World War Two and Stalin and you’d get it

you’d understand at least from

the perspective of suffering something

you did your whole life and held up

like evidence at a trial like it was

the missing piece in a complicated

it’s not going well for whoever’s side

you’re on and BAM! the whole ocean

is turned and Moses pats you on your back

for your acrobatics.  Ok, that’s a bit

blasphemous and cheap I get it and maybe

you’d slap me if you were here but you’re not

and so I read Herbert’s Mr. Cogito and think

maybe you’d go down on your knees

after reading ‘Mother’ and clothe your cold

bones even after that first line:

He fell from her lap like a ball of yarn.

Or would you have to wait like the rest of us

to get to the end to be broken to see

after the boy leaves her and continues

to fall far away from her she holds on

like any sound shelter far away from him

she holds on a station master a place

to wait ‘her outstretched arms’ that

glow in the dark like an old town

the only thing I see after you die and move

away and come back and move away

far far away at the foot of your bed.



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after William Stafford’s “The Star in the Hills”

after William Stafford’s “The Star in the


drawing the line it’s the stuff inside

we like to make MINE

and claim an ownership though often

and soon it turns to tarnish
and rust with neglect, lazy in our giving

to care.  it seems the dust comes
to a pause on the etching
(if there is etching)

and the wire to keep everything

in it in and (or?) everything

in it out struts its stuff in the cold.  how true

the graveyard gate’s still

in its rust and still in its post

of granite, a pillar set

beside the church, another sort

of cornerstone, and the iron

squeaks when it needs to be

opened to those folks visiting the bones

of those they’ve known, (or the bones

are waiting to be visited)—those

clear lines once cut, the sod set

neatly aside and labled in the mind
of the gravedigger, to be placed
just so, so as to be knitted

back together when the fleshy
and boney puzzel’s

reclaimed, (look that word up, puzzel:
you’ll see it’s arcaic and means maiden
or virgin, and aren’t we all that when
where laid
in the ground and when the living are gone

home, and the roots poke our noses
like worms into ourcool grave?)  maybe some

seed has been scattered.  or a tree’s

root ball cooled in the hole beside
the stone.  maybe

the chiseled name struck by hand

maybe the rock that flies up

just missing the eye…all a line

set to be straight but making an arc

instead and the man who could’ve
been made blind sees the stone
fly instead, and watches it hover
in the sky and sees it’s venus.  or:
i’m thinking when a star

falls from the sky like it did in William

Stafford’s poem, in the state

of california, who drew the lines

(maybe he was standing in Oregon

when he saw it fall) three miles

out and into the ocean to make

their claim, to make posted

a guard (because who’s going

Elizabeth Bishop

to make off with a dead


he stands in the singe

the star made while it skidded

and burned out and wondered

maybe something similar:  the dead

are drawn in little boxes

and if it weren’t for them

being dead they’d have something

to say about their own bones
being made to trophies

being made to stretch out
like boundaries,

about how when they were living

and could remember back
when they were small

they could reach

the fence against the closest pasture

and look through to the ocean

or the hills and they didn’t know anything

about the hum of a chisel or a star
coming straight for them
or the electrified wire
or what was being kept

in or being kept out

so they grasped that wire and held it

and it held them and they fell

forcefully back letting go and the wire

kept some of them, that small dare

of palm-skin, though it was the wire’s dare

the line itself trilling: cross me!

grow up and cross me!  don’t

wait to be

shoved and shoveled

from one open gate

to another open gate.

climb.  grease your hinge.  even after
you’re taken you’ll still be
brand new every time.  come
on! cross me!

aren’t you yet still alive?

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Conarium–the Gland That Was The Seat of the Soul



Conarium – the Gland That Was

     The Seat of the Soul

Icebergs behoove the soul

(both being self-made from elements least visible)

to see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.

                                    Elizabeth Bishop

                                    The Imaginary Iceberg

Maybe here’s where Descartes should come in,

feel himself thin and weary

create his Cogito and stop, if really

that’s the place to stop because is it? if

it’s been thought it’s caught in a trundle

of ‘it is’?  Ok, right, I know he suffers

us (men really, not women, not dogs,

because they don’t

have souls, either of them, and I’d wager

my own against the feather of Ma’at

and say neither

did he, nailing his Helena’s poodle to

the wall to draw back its skin, to see,

he said, if it had a soul

within, as if the soul were some

homunculus, little men (dogs?).  And what, pray,

stopped him from making his own

wife play a Saint Bartholomew? Was it

true his misogyny accosted his compassion?

I’m naïve I know, but not to the brink

of studied enough reason

to know even great masses

of ice succumb, they labor and birth above

us and all in the weight of water falling

and rising. And great pieces of them,

all the caught breath

of the world’s populations drifting

north on pure circumstance

when they did only to freeze and be

snowed in and blink, imagine, if it had

eyes, and lick its lips if it had a tongue—all this

mingled breath from the world’s entire

bestiary: but then too,

invisible…and so if you can

imagine it, and it’s  just like

the philosopher said!: it’s done and here.  Cogito!!

And what if the title of Discourse

on Method it claims it’s all a fake— (he does

take it back

under his wing with the threat

of a heretic’s hook and Galileo’s house


it will give us enough breath to pause,

won’t it?  Still, isn’t that the purpose of names

and lables— to lead us

a bit, astray maybe, or into cliché

temptation—I mean—

what if it wasn’t called what it was? or

what if it was called what it was the way

Bishop’s “Imaginary Iceberg” is and it’s just

as real as if it were right out my starboard

side window just as my ship’s turning,

because it’s true

when she says we’d rather have the iceberg

than the ship—it’s not all that complicated.  Does that

mean we’d rather have the soul

than the body?  The way we’re tugged

and ruffed, pulled down from neck

to feet, stuffed and ultimately undone?

At the end of it all?

What do you see when you look out

the window in the rain?  Will you say

it depends on the time of day, and if it’s dark

and I if I see myself looking back at me (unless

I’m so close to the glass, unless I’ve

cupped my eyes with my two hands

to shut out all the light I can) I will come

to know me the way Descarte knew himself

and too without having

to prove … (because we all know the soul

is almost

weightless, no matter how much

we scrub and scrub at the hour

of our death)

And it’s here that I have to ask you, even if

this isn’t the time to, isn’t it a kind

of blasphemy

to want to wash the windows in the rain?  I don’t know

why I want to know this right now, or maybe just ask

because there’s no real know, and it is

raining, and

it’s only the breath of a question—I mean,

the rain is real and the desire for clean

glass is real

but it is raining and what is it I need

to see anyway?  And shit, it’s still

dark.  It’s the last few days of a June early

morning.  I think I like knowing

somewhere it’s starting

to snow, and that that snow is floating on

the ocean and making do with its brief

life, a flake made from nothing but a drop

of water and the faithful attendance

of the world’s breath.  When we

come undone, when our skin’s pulled back,

when our spine’s against all that ice of a crowd’s

infatuations and it’s nothing but thought, (here’s

where you can inhale at last)

I want our substance to rise up

uncaught, but noticed: thought beautiful,

thought worth measuring, but not

with tools that will make or undo or ruin—not with tools

at all but the Naked kind or grace Descartes

wouldn’t deign to know but Bishop,

always looking into her own self, she who is

the ship and she who is all that’s frozen only

to come up rising and come up high, high

up out of the water iceberg,

she her own self uncharted, going on, uncaptured,

uncaptained . . .



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There’s Solid, and Then There’s Solid


There’s Solid, and Then There’s Solid



I haven’t found the pronoun through which to touch it directly.

You may feel differently.

                                                                Inflection Finally Ungraspable by Grammar

                                                                Jane Hirshfield

I’ll take it.  I’ll take what’s solid

about it and build a different

life on it, molecule by molecule,


though I’m blind to those like most

folks and the only consolation

is giving the vision a little


rub and nudge like we’ve got

something n common, the way

near strangers enter a room


from opposite ends and bump

into one another like old friends

but only with the tilt


of the head, or the way the hair

parts, so familiar with its own

gravity, it bequeaths confidence


easily, the way say a lawyer, reading

the last will and testament does,

knowing all those secrets


all along, who gets what

and who doesn’t and how

precarious the border, the edge,


so like the men who’ve made

children in different countries

and left them there, little rock


cairns braving it on the top-most

cliffs, indifferent to the wind, or

seeming to be, free to receive the shrug


or shoulder the nudge of the ones

come to walk among them

and maybe make their own


with what’s been left, falling

down in the middle, sharp flint-

like shards mostly, though


occasionally, something round,

hidden beneath all the moss

and gull-gulped-thrown-up- squabbled-


won-then-dropped-then-lost mussel,

the meat it still intact,  drying quietly in

its smooth shell, tucked


temporarily forever in what

is falling down as soon

as it is walked away from, maybe


even before.

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